According to the latest study carried out by the Observatorio de Comunidades de Propietarios, late payments in homeowners’ associations exceeded 1,850 million euros two years ago. This figure exposes one of the main problems that a property owner can encounter, since if one neighbour does not pay, the rest have to pay. What solutions are there to resolve this situation?
As usual when we talk about arrears, the solution is to know the reasons for the non-payment because, depending on these, we can decide the best way to act. Is it a question of occasional non-payments due to the owner’s lack of liquidity? Is it the neighbour’s dissatisfaction that is pushing him not to pay? Is the owner prolonging his debt with the aim of paying it when he sells the property? Is the debtor a financial institution?
At Bufete Salmerón we recommend exhausting the amicable route first. However, it is advisable for an owners’ meeting to record the amounts owed in writing, for example, by sending a letter to the owner. In this way, in the event that legal action has to be taken, there will already be proof of the claims that have been made.
If the amicable procedure does not work and the landlord remains in debt, it is advisable to initiate an order for payment procedure whereby the neighbour is legally warned.
In order to do so, the agreement of the community is necessary, so it will be necessary to convene an owners’ meeting and put the matter on the agenda, there must be an acknowledgement of the total debt of the neighbour, the owner must be informed and the secretary of the community must issue a certificate showing the amount owed.
Once the order for payment procedure has been filed, the judge will require a reply from the owner within 20 days. If the owner does not agree and still refuses to pay, the community may continue with the claim process, this time by filing an ordinary proceeding.
To do so, once again, a general meeting of owners must be called and the agenda must include the actions to be taken to collect the debt, as well as the presentation of all invoices and documentation proving that the neighbour owes the money that is being claimed. This point is particularly important, because if the accusations of non-payment are not duly demonstrated, the judge could find against the residents’ association. Once the ordinary proceedings have been filed, in two to six months, the judge will rule and will even have the power to seize the debtor’s accounts and assets.
With the economic crisis, many of the properties that previously belonged to private individuals have become part of the assets of financial institutions, which on numerous occasions have not fulfilled their obligations as owners. In this regard, it is worth remembering that when this happens, banks become co-owners and have exactly the same obligations and rights as any other owner, and therefore the process for claiming unpaid amounts is exactly the same.
However, the fact that a financial institution becomes a co-owner, although increasing the chances of achieving payment of the debt because its solvency is more than proven, also opens up new obstacles in the claiming of amounts, such as, for example, finding a valid interlocutor in the financial institution to assume this responsibility.
Bearing in mind that late payment in any community of owners always means a significant issue to the rest of the neighbours and that the most important thing is to achieve the collection of the debt as quickly as possible, at Bufete Salmerón we offer you our extensive experience in this type of conflict. We study your case in depth and within 48 hours we will provide you with a response, accompanying you if you wish throughout the process of claiming debts
Image by Stuart Miles (Freedigitalphotos)